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Two midsized states that are experiencing vastly different stages of legalizing their sports betting measures appear to be reaching a conclusion as Illinois is poised to open the doors of their sportsbooks, while Kentucky’s bill appears to be on life support.
Illinois’ expansive sports betting bill, signed into law last June, appears to be ready to implement as operators have been told to get their sportsbooks prepared for bettors in the next four weeks.
The governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, has told local media that his pet project, sports betting, is ready to be launched just in time for the lucrative NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Kentucky legislators, on the other hand, appear to be killing their own bill, as several lawmakers opposed to sports betting piled a dozen amendments onto the proposed legislation, essentially putting the measure on life support.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Illinois governor said betting operators, waiting since last June when the legislation was signed into law, would be ready for the upcoming March Madness season.
“The Governor is pleased that Illinois sportsbooks will open for business by March Madness, generating revenue to rebuild universities, hospitals and other facilities across the state,” Gov. Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh said.
As it stands, three casinos in the state have been given temporary operating licenses to offer wagering. The Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, the Argosy Casino in Alton, and the Victoria Casino in Elgin are the three operators that should have sports betting ready on the opening day of the NCAA Tournament.
Even with the slow rollout and lengthy adoption of regulations, having sports betting available for the NCAA Tournament will be a huge boost to Illinois’ early returns as the state looks to expand wagering throughout the state, including in professional stadiums and arenas.
The only caveat for fans of Illinois schools will be that the law prohibits wagers on in-state schools, but bettors should be able to make wagers with a mobile app as the bill legalizes online betting.
Kentucky lawmakers looking to end the pursuit of sports betting in the state have plowed a popular bi-partisan House bill with “poison pill” amendments in the hope of killing the legislation.
Even with the support of 40 co-sponsors and the approval of new Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, the House’ Caucus of GOP representatives have set their sights on slowing the bill down with the attachments of the unpopular amendments.
One Republican Representative, Adam Koenig, the central sponsor of House Bill 137, does not believe that the Caucus is willing to listen to reason with regards to the sports betting measure despite its popularity among lawmakers.
”This is a Republican Party Caucus issue,” Koenig told the Courier-Journal. “I think it’s fair to say that if a bill has the majority support of the (Republican) caucus, it probably would get heard. We’ve got some work to do to get to that point.”
The new amendments have shaken the faith of lawmakers, like Rep. Koenig, who were encouraged by the unanimous passing of bill in the House committee, but there is hope that negotiations can help calm the fears of the caucus members.
Estimates for sports betting revenue in Kentucky reach around $22.5 million annually and with lawmakers looking at a sizable deficit that could reach into the billions for the upcoming fiscal year, turning down an opportunity to take a small slice of that margin could come back to haunt resistant lawmakers.
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